Smokers face heightened risk of COVID-19, Nunavut’s Health Department warns

“Quitting smoking is an important part of fighting COVID-19”

Nunavut’s annual tobacco reduction month campaign is underway. The Health Department says tobacco use carries a heightened COVID-19 risk. (File photo)

By Mélanie Ritchot

The Government of Nunavut is giving people a new reason to quit smoking this year: it could help lessen the risk of contracting COVID-19.

“Having lung problems from smoking might increase the risk of getting COVID-19 and may make some symptoms of the illness worse,” the Government of Nunavut said in a news release Jan. 7, during the kick-off of its annual campaign for tobacco reduction month.

Smoking and sharing cigarettes and cannabis joints makes it easier for the virus to spread, according to the release.

Nunavut’s Health Department also recommends not touching your face or mouth with your hands while smoking, avoiding sharing cigarettes, joints, pipes and vaporizers, and says not to pick up discarded cigarette or cannabis butts.

It also recommends avoiding close contact with family and friends while smoking.

“This will help minimize exposure to second-hand smoke and possibly the virus.”

Smoking rates among Indigenous youth in Canada are at least three times higher than in their non-Indigenous peers, according to a 2017 report by the Canadian Paediatric Society.

About 75 per cent of Nunavummiut use tobacco, which is four to five times higher than the rest of Canada, according to a 2016 survey done across Nunavut, posted on, a site run by the GN.

A 2016 map of tobacco use across Canada shows about 74 per cent of Nunavummiut used tobacco, while Canada’s average was 15.8 per cent. (Photo from

The Health Department’s tobacco reduction month awareness campaign runs from Jan. 7 to the end of the month.

“Your health can noticeably improve in the days and weeks after quitting smoking in ways that could make a difference against the virus and in your overall health.”

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(19) Comments:

  1. Posted by Old news on

    Health Canada and the CDC have said this since April. This is nothing new and the fact that the GN is only speaking about this now speaks volumes.

    Do the math, a pack a day smoker in Nunavut spends roughly $10,000/year. That is as much as some people make in an entire year. If 74% of Nunavut smokes, that’s 30,000 people. Let’s say the average person goes through a pack every two days (30,000 x $5000/year), that’s $150,000,000 spent on cigarettes yearly in Nunavut. On top of that the medical expenses and medivac fees are through the roof. Think of how many houses could be built with that much money!

    Some real help is needed. Someone who is addicted to cigarettes needs treatment options, saying that it may increase the risk of covid isn’t enough to get someone to quit.

  2. Posted by Fact Checker on

    If smoking puts you more at risk for COVID; then they should be urged to get the vaccine first along with other at risk personnel, and elders..

    • Posted by Or… on

      or….. quit smoking! Just because you are a smoker doesn’t mean you should get especial privileges. doesn’t work that way.

      • Posted by Don’t be depressed on

        And if you’re an alcoholic and want a treatment centre in the territory, just quit drinking!
        If you’re depressed and want to talk to a mental health professional, just be happy!

  3. Posted by Qavvigarjuk on

    Wow 74% is truly shocking. Yes indeed the GN has to do a lot more to help people quit smoking with aids and real support they need. No wonder our cancer rate is so high here!! Being addicted to tobacco, alcohol, drugs ,sugar and others usually is a sign of people covering , southing trauma of some sort. Real mental health help in Nunavut is sorely needed in all our communities.

  4. Posted by George on

    Rather strange, isn’t it, that smoking in Nunavut has not seen any appreciable decline over the years whereas in southern Canada it’s now the minority who continue to smoke.

    At over $20 a pack, you’d think that a society that claims to be so disadvantaged would find a way to eliminate that huge expense from their lives.

    • Posted by Jack Napier on

      Yes, and save the 20 for a George Foreman grill.

  5. Posted by Paul Murphy on

    What a string of garbage comments. The GN has been providing aids and support to smokers for years. Dr Patterson has talked about the risk to smokers for 9 months now.
    This is nothing more than attempt to blame someone else for the smoker’s habit.
    As a ex 3 pack a day smoker, I do know the difficulty, but lets blame no one but the smoker themselves for their habit and choosing to put their habit ahead of food for their families.
    Time the smokers set an example to their kids.

  6. Posted by Cigarette smoker on

    As a long time cigarette smoker, I find it very challenging to try to quit smoking. I actually cut down once. I would need full support on quitting smoking.

    • Posted by Artie on

      The secret to quitting smoking is schedule your smoke breaks. Eg. I will have a 1 cig every 2hrs. Once that becomes your smoke schedule change it to 1 cig every 3hrs. And you continue doing that. After a while it will be 2 cigs a day, then 1 cig a day, then 1 cig every 2 days. That is how I quit smoking. It took me 1 month to quit & my last cig was 4 years ago. I have no cravings & do not miss smoking at all.

  7. Posted by Makes you think on

    Smoking is the real pandemic in Nunavut, not the virus. Kids are starving because their parents choose to buy cigarettes instead of food, then complain that they can’t afford food so they go to income support and food banks. 74%. That is a sickening number.

    • Posted by Raven on

      Smokes and food are purchased hand in hand in most transactions.

      • Posted by True on

        I once witnessed a young mother of three at the local store attempt to buy formula, diapers, and smokes. First attempt her card was declined, so she put away the diapers. Second attempt, her card was once again declined….she put away the formula. In the end she had just enough for a pack of smokes…….a sad addiction for sure.

  8. Posted by Qavvigarjuk on

    Again I repeat, smoking is not a just a bad habit, it is an addiction like other addictions, People really need help with this than what is available now. it is multifaceted, not a simple fix.

  9. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.” – Mark Twain
    Speaking from experience it is tough, very tough.
    First, you have to want to quit, I mean really want to. Whether it’s for your health, the money you will save, for your kids, whatever reason. Pick one, or more of the above.
    Second, having help, either prescription drugs, nicotine patch, or just friends helping you will aid you in quitting. Reach out for help.
    Third, you will probably fail at least half a dozen times, if not more. Don’t be discouraged, that’s just a reflection of how hard this addiction is to beat. But you can beat it.
    Fourth, set a date to quit. Tomorrow is probably the best date to try to quit. And if you don’t quit tomorrow, maybe just make it one or two hours without a cigarette when you want one. And the next time go another hour. Pretty soon you will be going a day smoke free, then two, then three.
    Five, when you fail, don’t beat yourself up. Select a new date to quit (tomorrow would be a good date), and try again.
    It can be done. I’m smoke free and have been for years after 40+ years of smoking. I feel better, look better, and probably smell better!!! Good luck.

  10. Posted by Interesting… on

    Interesting – I was standing in line waiting to pay for my groceries at our Northern Store the other day, and noticed a sign on the cigarette display. It says “tobacco kills 50% of all smokers”…
    I wondered to myself – if that’s true, why is the health system so focused on other issues right now?!!
    Given this stat, shouldn’t we (at least) be just as worried about cigarette use as COVID?

    • Posted by Bingo! on

      Yes! With fatality rate almost twice as much as covid why aren’t we all panicking twice as much as we are over covid? Maybe if the media hammers it home morning day and night how deadly smoking is, live could be saved.

  11. Posted by Andy on

    You want to give up smoking, you have to be ready for it. It’s an addiction just like any other one. However, you have to start it, you have to suffer through all the withdraws, and you have to finish it. YOU cannot ask anybody to do this for you, this is just the lazy way out to say, I tried. There is lots of help available through Health and you can get the Nicotine patches, gums, sprays, etc., I’m sure they are free.

    We all know smoking is not healthy, this is no secrete. Is it easy to quit, hell no. Is it rewarding, hell yes. However and again, you have to do this and you have to be ready for it. If you start saying I will try next week……You are already setup to fail. Don’t try, do it.

  12. Posted by Customer on

    I have been smoke free for 4 years. You have to want to quit. If you are only quitting cause some told you to, it wont work.
    I was afraid of getting cancer when I felt sick smoking. It gave me my reason to quit and stay quit.

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